The advanced reviews of the Apple Watch are out in the media this week and as already noted by many, the consensus has been far from stellar. Even among the better reviews, like Farhad Manjoo’s in The New York Times, the reviewer stops well short of recommending it for most people’s use.
While this may be disappointing to Apple and Watch buyers on the fence, Vox points out that they should be far from discouraged. The first version of many Apple products often fall short of ubiquity.
This got us thinking about other successful Apple products and their initial launches: did they all meet with the critical acclaim and commercial success that we have come to expect from the iPod and iPhone?
It turns out a number of Apple products faced similarly skeptical first impressions.
Take the iPad. With its current legacy as the most successful tablet and one that redefined personal computing, it’s easy to forget that the pre-launch was marred initially by “controversy” over the choice of iPad as its name. Business Insider and the Washington Post among other outlets gave air to complaints about the absurdity of the name and even tied it to a lack of women within Apple’s marketing team.
First impression review, while largely positive, did complain about a lack of functionality and its high price point, especially compared to the new school of budget laptops that could “do more” than the iPad could.
None of these complaints were enough to derail a successful launch and one that would go on to spur the successful iPad Mini and iPad Air versions.
Previously, the Macbook Air faced skepticism of its own. While reviewers were generally impressed, Engadget called the choice to buy one a “tough call” and noted that in Apple’s attempt to make an “absurdly” thin laptop, a lot of features were left on the cutting room floor.
At the time, the Macbook Air was just the latest edition to the fledgling “netbook” market. Yet within a few years, vastly improved Macbook Airs were the dominant player in the space and ubiquitous in both business and creative settings.
One can go back even further to the original Macintosh computer launch in 1984. While the launch of the 128k would eventually prove to be a watershed moment for the company and spawn the legions of Mac Evangelists that proliferate to this day, many reviewers were skeptical of the Mac vision, in one case labeling the new machine as a “toy.”
Disagreements over the direction of the company in the wake of the Macintosh’s failure to displace the PC as the primary personal computer of choice ultimately led to Steve Jobs departing the company.
As you can see, not all Apple product launches go smoothly. Yet Apple is betting in a number of years and a number of versions later, their Watch will be as common on their customers’ wrists as their iPhones are in their pockets. Based on Apple’s track record, some early skepticism shouldn’t be a cause to bet against them.